Is Watching TV Actually A Good Way To Relax?

Watching TV is an American pastime, and with the pandemic, people are watching more TV than ever before. According to new data from Nielsen, 29 percent of remote workers have the TV on during billable hours daily, and the average American watches 5 hours and 56 minutes of cumulative videos each day.

But outside of working hours, can watching TV actually help you relax? Science says kind of. Studies from 2012 found that rewatching old, familiar TV favorites can make our brains feel safe, allowing them to recharge. However, watching horror movies and the news can have the opposite effect, though this varies from person to person.

Viale Wright is a clinical psychologist, and notes that watching too much TV can be problematic, noting, “If [watching TV] is your only coping mechanism—if you have nothing except TV—then that’s probably problematic.” As for having the TV on while you work—researchers say we’re likely ignoring it, and that have a low-key distraction in the background can actually help you complete creative tasks (though they add that any ambient sound that mimics the murmur of people talking and moving in the background should have the same effect).